Explorations (**BD2 Movie Spoilers!**)

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Re: Explorations

Postby andypalmer » Wed May 19, 2010 1:02 pm

I would go so far as to posit that Bella believes Vampirism, at least the way the Cullens live it, to be superior to being human. Not that I believe Bella, the character, has fully examined the depths of this belief, but the ability to live forever with one's love and to not suffer from age or disease is an ideal for Bella. More importantly, she wants to be Edward's equal and can only do that by "increasing her state of being" by becoming like him; I phrase it that way because Bella certainly believes that she is less than him in every possible way and ultimately, cannot be "deserving" of him unless she becomes his equal.
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Re: Explorations

Postby Sorghey » Thu May 20, 2010 1:24 pm

Hello to all. I’ve enjoyed reading the conversation. I hope you won’t mind if I jump in with a few comments.

December wrote:
I'm hoping it will give you a glimpse into why one might choose to view Bella's choice this way: as a kind of death and rebirth rather than a simple sideways move into another species.

What a lovely way to put this. I believe this does go deeper than just a choice between a vampire and a wolf. The "love triangle" was more of a struggle between choices as opposed to the love she may have felt for Jacob. This was the choice to begin a new life, notwithstanding the consequences; a choice to sacrifice what she loved most as a human for something she believed would bring her ultimate happiness: Edward forever.

For me, Bella’s love for Jake simply translated into a deep sense of gratitude; a love for someone who helped her to function--a friend. True, he happens to be a boy, with whom she could possibly have children with, and stay mortal, and even share a momentary passionate kiss with, but even a slow progression of love was not enough, and never would be. I believe that at no point was the level of love she felt for Jacob on the same playing field as her love for Edward. The sheer magnetism between Edward and Bella is part of what makes it so unique. No force, no matter how powerful, can transcend Bella and Edward’s love, not even human life itself; it can only prove its strength. And it’s not until Bella becomes a vampire that their love can be fully realized. Still, it is not the force alone that keeps them together. I believe they are truly in love, like puzzle pieces that seem to fit just right, saving one another in many ways. There is a unity between Edward and Bella that is just as strong as the unexplained, scientific draw towards each other.

Openhome wrote:
We get clues all along the way that she really wasn't meant to be a human. I think this is also another point to the story that isn't discussed: Bella was already vampiric in many areas. She could even smell blood (with hilarious results). So, my conclusion was that she was meant to be a vampire, but she didn't know that.

Well, her quirks definitely make her attractive to vampires. I think they also make Edward’s love for Bella that much sweeter. If not for her quirks, would Edward have ever been as attracted to her? It’s interesting you bring up the idea that she was meant to be a vampire, though. This was one of my questions that I was lucky enough ask Stephenie at a book signing. In my mind, I originally worried that if Bella were destined to be a vampire anyway would that cheapen her decision to become one? Here was the response:

Q: Does Bella’s genetic make-up predestine her to become a vampire?

A: I wouldn't say that. It's more like that life just suits her better than a human life. She's a far better version of herself as a vampire. (Next sentence is not word for word, but paraphrased.) If she hadn't met the Cullens, it's not like she would just become a vampire.

In reference to her choice to be with Edward, it truly was her decision, not just a destiny lined up for her—not like it is for Sam and Emily, or any other imprinted couple. She could have gone another way. And that is choosing a life filled with love and equal partnership, one that will last for eternity—with Edward!
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Re: Explorations

Postby rollie715 » Thu May 20, 2010 4:29 pm

Sorghey, Welcome to the discussion. I too, usually lurk and enjoy the other posts, and once in a while try to post something worthwhile.

I have always thought of Bella's move to the life of a vampire to be a move "up" and not just a move "sideways" or "down". While it does have it's tradeoff's, I can see how it takes her from some of the restrictions of humanity to allowing her to be more of what her true potential is. I found it particularly interesting in Breaking Dawn when she was experiencing the actual transformation and how her senses where heightened and abilities increased. SM made it clear in the early books how clumsy and physically challenged she was as a human, which I think was to present the contrast to how graceful and physically able she became when she turned into a vampire. My own optimistic view is that somehow in a way we don't understand yet, the negative aspects of being a vampire, such as the agony of thirsting after human blood would somehow be addressed and resolved in time. That maybe being a vampire was a part of what typical humans would normally go through after they die, but in the vampire's case they continued on in a partial "live" physical state. I'm not an expert on the subject, but the term "undead" comes to mind. That somehow, both vampires and humans have a common heritage and a common destiny, as if it wasn't two distinct lifeforms, but the same that travel different paths to get to the same place.
Somehow the love story between Edward and Bella being similar to other classics where they came from different sides of the tracks and using conventional wisdom were never meant to be together, or at least would have a difficult journey with a successful union, maybe a part of the story is about when true love principles are applied, things can happen that we would otherwise think impossible and bridges can be built accross voids, even deaths, we thought were unbridgeable.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this thought process, but it is very intriguing to me.
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Re: Explorations

Postby December » Fri May 21, 2010 8:50 am

openhome wrote:Yes, she didn't sacrifice enough. Yes, SM could have brought her moral tale to a much less confusing end...I for one wasn't surprised by the fact that she became a vampire so easily. Disappointed yes!

Yes. Just....yes.

(And if I don’t stop at that, I’ll be writing that 40 inch post of mine all over again!)

openhome wrote:The love triangle was between Edward and life as she knew it. This was a very frightening choice for her. The entire book of Eclipse was about her choice between what she thought of as a form of death and the life she knew.

Exactly.

And does it make a difference to their epic love story that Bella was in fact totally mistaken? Well, back to that 40-inch post again.

In one sense, no of course it doesn’t: the measure of Bella's love for Edward lies in what she was prepared to give up for him, not what in the end she was actually called upon to sacrifice. Morally speaking it's indistinguishable.

But, but but...it makes a difference aesthetically. And here we necessarily move of the (semi) firm ground of philosophy (do outcomes outweigh intentions?) onto the wholly treacherous ground of taste. But for me, it seems like it weakens the dramatic arc of the story -- make it less satisfying to read -- for Bella’s fears to have been groundless For everything that TW, NM and particularly EC made us believe about the sacrifice she was making to suddenly be rescinded. It’s not that I have some sadistic desire to see Bella suffer. I like happy endings as much as Stephenie does. It’s just that in the first three books Stephenie set up a rather distinctive and compelling love story of ecstatic love and hideous consequence entwined -- only to unbraid it all again. As I wrote on another occasion, it’s part of the magnificence of their love that Bella will genuinely count the world well lost for Edward: that no sacrifice or suffering can dim the joy that his love brings. A truly romantic ending, because what she’s embracing for Edward is in many ways so terrible.

And I think we’re meant to think that nothing less than the unnatural intensity of their passion could possibly justify Bella’s determination to throw away the precious human life (as Stephenie sees it) which she’s been given. That deliberately becoming a vampire is only forgivable if you are Bella: cut off from any real possibility -- now that she has tumbled into this mythic, otherworldly love -- of living out a happy life as a human. The price she's willing to pay is her absolution for the unholy trade she is making, proof that this is a love worth turning your back on humanity for. But only if we get to see her live that loss -- at least at first -- and struggle with the thirst and the childlessness and the grief for her family, and still find incomparable happiness with Edward, can we know for certain that that their love was that unimaginably strong.

My take on it anyway.
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Re: Explorations

Postby Jazz Girl » Fri May 21, 2010 11:31 am

December~ I agree with everything you are saying. In my heart, I truly understand that Bella is sacrificing so much to follow her heart, to have the one-and-only love with Edward, to have forever with him because a human lifetime just isn't enough. The only thing that truly gives me pause in that is, I suppose, my concept of regret. If she struggles with the consequences of that choice, than doesn't she regret it? Maybe that's just my attitudes and beliefs coloring my perception. But, in my head, one of the reasons Bella never truly suffers the thirst or feels the loss of her previous life is because she has truly become what she always knew she was supposed to be. It's rather like her attitude about the wedding. Until she went though it and finally saw, truly understood, why it was such a big deal, she was terrified of it, resisted it at every turn and made quite the shrew of herself in doing so. But, once she was in the moment, witnessed the beauty of what it was and what it symbolized, it was everything she wanted and she could not imagine living without it. I see Bella's flawless transition not so much as a removal of consequences, as a reprieve. In stead, I see it as her fear being swept away by destiny's reality.

As Edward explains, not a one of them had the choice. They all regret what they think they have become. Through that regret, that belief that they would change everything they are, comes their struggle to accept what they are and what they have. Through Bella's full acceptance of that, she isn't tortured with that regret.

The addition of Renesme into the picture muddies the water a bit, I suppose. She was not suppose to have that. None of them were. But, in a way, I see Renesme not so much as a reward or another reprieve for Bella, but as one for Edward. He too fought fate for so long. He knew, from the moment he witnessed the vision in Alice's head, what Bella was meant to be, what fate had in store for both of them. But, just like Bella and the wedding, he dug in his heels and tried to find any and all ways around it (including quite possibly the stupidest action ever taken by the handicapped y-chromosome set). In yielding to fate, he found not only everything he ever wanted, but everything he never thought he could ask for.
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Re: Explorations

Postby December » Fri May 21, 2010 1:04 pm

Jazz Girl wrote:The addition of Renesme into the picture muddies the water a bit, I suppose.

Yes indeed. (Written a lot elsewhere about this).

But I have to agree with you that it's everything that Edward richly deserves, and I'm (perversely) rather glad to see him get it. (And I always had this sneaking conviction that Edward and Bella would adopt in the fullness of time: they were so clearly cut out to be the world's most adorable parents. (Granted, everyone of sense and taste made merciless fun of me for this!)). I just don't think it should have happened so soon. Not before they'd had a chance at living their vampire life together and facing the choices they thought they'd made

See, I think I'm with you 100% that there's can't be any space in Bella's heart for the slenderest sliver of regret. She has to take on this monstrous burden, leave everything she holds dear behind and still be ecstatically happy -- a happiness wholly untinged by regret. But not necessarily by sorrow or suffering. I suppose what I'm imagining is a love so blinding that it makes all else pale by comparison: not that the rest ceases to matter (quite the contrary!) but that Edward matters more. That she could struggle horribly with what she has become, and still be glad -- because she has Edward at her side. But that's quite different from realizing that all her fears were in truth only phantoms. It's hard for me not to feel that on some level this is shortchanging Bella. Or at any rate, shortchanging us!

But I suppose you put your finger on it: the question is whether if something is bitterly hard, there's any way you could NOT regret it? My own feeling is emphatically: yes. If it's part and parcel of something that brings you extraordinary joy, you don't look back. Opportunity cost, as Edward would put it. Indeed his love for Bella is a perfect example of what I have in mind in Bella's case -- what I'd expected Stephenie to have in mind. The ecstasy of first love sweeps Edward away as irresistibly as it does Bella -- he's walking on air that first night in TW -- but their intimacy is both delight and torment to him: searing temptation and physical pain. Every second that he is with her -- holds her in his arms -- kisses her -- he is testing the absolute limits of his endurance. But I don't think the smallest shadow of regret or ambivalence ever crosses his mind. (Not on his own account, anyway). In a way, this was one of the inequalities in their relationship I looked forward to seeing erased in BD: watching Bella gladly assume for love of Edward the burdens he had for so long assumed for her -- without regretting them one iota more than he did. Because the joy outweighs everything else. So it's not so hard for me to revel in the thought of a more bittersweet ending than Stephenie has in fact concocted for us: it's the bitterness which sharpens the extraordinary sweetness....

(And now Knives is going to go be quietly sick in a corner).

*grin*
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Re: Explorations

Postby andypalmer » Fri May 21, 2010 6:54 pm

My take is a bit different.

To me, Bella has no regret about her decision because she truly believes that 1. she hasn't given anything up and 2. that being vampire isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Every person who gets married gives something up. We all give up part of ourselves to be with the person we love, we all separate ourselves, to some degree, from our friends and family, and most importantly, we all change, metaphorically certainly but also to a degree in personality and character, to become someone else, to become a husband or wife. In Bella's view, she's not ultimately giving up anything extraordinary to be with Edward. While there is more evidence of the change incurred, she gives up nothing tangible, nothing that she values, that is, in her view, more than expected to be with one's true love.

The Cullens were changed against their will, changed without choice, and as part of that process, regret that occurrence and the change itself. Even Carlisle views his vampirism as a curse, one that he merely does his best to make the most of. Even Carlisle doesn't truly believe that even his centuries of service, of using the benefits of his form to aid others, are sufficient make-weight for what he is. Only Bella views being a vampire as no more inherently "evil" than being human. She's the only one who not only believes, but has confidence and faith that vampires have souls and are therefore have the same "eternal potential" as humans. To me, it is this faith, as much as her preparation, that allows her to so strongly and completely resist her newborn urges. She is the only one who truly believes that she has a choice, that vampires are not inherently "evil bloodsuckers" who can be excused for their "mistakes". Whereas others see inevitability, she sees choice; where others see irresistibility, she sees merely a trial, a challenge to be overcome.

What then is there to regret when you give up no more than anyone else does to be with their true love? When then is there to regret when blessed with a form with advantages that far, far outweigh a overcomeable weakness?
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Re: Explorations

Postby Jazz Girl » Fri May 21, 2010 8:33 pm

Andypalmer! EXACTLY!!! The only thing I would add is this. Even more so than seeing her sacrifice as no more than anything anyone else sacrifices for the sake of being with the one they love, I believe she truly sees it as a gift. It is exactly her sacrifice that allows her to be with Edward, not just for a lifetime but literally forever. In that, it's not that she doesn't experience the pain or the grief, but it is, exactly as December said, utterly dwarfed by the love and devotion and ecstatic joy she feels in being with Edward.

Part of parcel of the difference in how we see it could be in their differing attitudes. Edward is a thinker, a brooder. His nature and his habit is to examine everything, every factor, every dynamic, every decision, to within an inch of its life. He naturally takes responsibility for everything. His view of the nature of what he is would naturally lead him to torture himself over what he does and what he can and cannot do with Bella, what he sees as an unbearable price for her. Bella, on the other hand, has a very different attitude towards life, one we see from the very beginning of The Saga. Once Bella makes a decision or something has happened, she deals and moves on. She doesn't dwell and lament what's lost or decry the things in her life that changed. She is always looking forward (another reason why a human lifetime might not have been enough with Edward, but that's another post).

If you combine those two factors; Bella's view of her sacrifice as no big deal and even a blessing combined with her nature to always move forward and not look back, her experience of the pain and grief would barely register. And, any that did would be no match for her utter bliss at having everything she wanted.
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Re: Explorations

Postby andypalmer » Fri May 21, 2010 8:46 pm

Jazz Girl. Agreed :-)
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Re: Explorations

Postby Openhome » Fri May 21, 2010 11:34 pm

Jazz Girl wrote:The addition of Renesme into the picture muddies the water a bit, I suppose. She was not suppose to have that. None of them were. But, in a way, I see Renesme not so much as a reward or another reprieve for Bella, but as one for Edward. He too fought fate for so long. He knew, from the moment he witnessed the vision in Alice's head, what Bella was meant to be, what fate had in store for both of them. But, just like Bella and the wedding, he dug in his heels and tried to find any and all ways around it (including quite possibly the stupidest action ever taken by the handicapped y-chromosome set). In yielding to fate, he found not only everything he ever wanted, but everything he never thought he could ask for. [/color]


I totally agree with this. Renesme was for Edward. The Saga is just as much about him as it is about her. They both resist temptation and remain good enough to attain the impossible - an immortal child.

However, I think Nessie serves another purpose as well. I truly believe that SM sees Nessie as Bella's final act of sanctifying heroism. Nessie was supposed to be there from the very beginning of the saga, wether we like it or not. Unlike most of the fandom, I like the child. But I see Nessie as the perfect way for both Edward and Bella to earn the HEA we see. Please stay with me on this:
First, the very beginning of the saga is a snippet of Bella talking about sacrificing herself for another. This is considered by all humanity to be the ultimate in selflessness.
Then, all throughout the saga, Bella keeps losing that which she loves and accepts it (especially in New Moon). Eclipse is all about what she will ultimately give up in the future. Think of Bella at the end of Twilight -- all dressed up and hoping to be turned but being forced to dance instead. Now think of who she is at the end of Eclipse. She isn't giddy about becoming a vampire, she wants it yes, but isn't the young, love sick girl anymore. As Jazz Girl put it so well...
Bella, on the other hand, has a very different attitude towards life, one we see from the very beginning of The Saga. Once Bella makes a decision or something has happened, she deals and moves on. She doesn't dwell and lament what's lost or decry the things in her life that changed.
She sees the change as the only way to truly live, but she now knows that it will come at a cost. She is eager to pay the cost because of the result. However, Andy, I don't think she had no regrets by the time the change occurred. By the wedding in BD, she finally understands that she is going to lose something, but it is a sacrifice she makes gladly.
However, in BD, right before she finds out she is pregnant, she finally is willing to live as a human a few more years. She finally understands what the others have said, this change can never be reversed and is literally eternal. At last she sees her humanity as the gift it is, and now that she is willing to accept it, it is taken from her.
Her final act as a human is to save what the others believe is a monster. Bella isn't willing to see any of the frightening "monsters" that now fill her world as evil. Because of that, all of them love her. In the ultimate twist of fate, the tables are turned, and the "monsters" fear what Bella naturally loves. They assume that the baby is an abomination and refuse to give the child the same acceptance that Bella gave them.
Bella's final act of human defiance and sacrifice blessed the family with their greatest gift. And she was willing to face a true death to do it.
From the text, I can only discern that SM didn't see vampires as inherently evil, but rather as something like fallen angels, immensely powerful and capable of unimaginable evil. I see them as being enhanced to a degree that they could indeed pass as gods (as the Romanian coven believed). Yet to fully achieve happiness in that state of being, they must be willing to give up the one thing that brings them the most joy -- human blood. Again, they must daily sacrifice to remain good.
Since the theme of sacrifice is so prevalent in the story, I believe that Nessie is there as both Bella's and Edward's reward for what they have been willing to give up. I also believe that this final act of ultimate sacrifice (giving up her life for something unknown) is what Stephenie saw as the cost of eternity.
I may not believe that a hybrid baby is a good or feasible cost for eternal happiness (especially one as perfect as her!! I've raised over a dozen toddlers, and NO ONE should have it that easy!), but after re-reading the pregnancy and birth, I truly believe that giving up her life for her daughter made Bella, in SM's mind, worthy of what she wanted.
I know, I'm being a sap, but BD failed me on only a few points, and I honestly think I understand why SM wrote it the way she did. I may not agree, but I understand.
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